Rachel Stubbings

In memory of Paul Cobley

For Mr. Cobley.

I write this from the dark, for my brightest light is out.

Today I was meant to see my friend to say goodbye forever, but he’d gone before I got there.

I know grief. I know that if you catch it in the right moment, it can be love, not loss. I hope to do that here.

I loved Paul Cobley on sight. I wasn’t able to articulate why as an eleven year old, but as a grown-up, I recognise it as this: I thought he was cool as shit.

Paul Cobley was my drama teacher.

A benevolent, complicated, tower of a man, with a rich, effortless growl that made Alan Rickman sound like Orvil. A man who could switch from warm smile to terrifying glare in a heartbeat. A man that kept you on your toes. A romantic fool who’s laugh would make you high, who’s disappointment could break you, who’s passion, love and dedication would fuel you for a lifetime.

I wonder. Did he know how much he meant to us all?

I feel like I’m speaking for a sea of faces from my old school, a school which embraced pupils who were refused education elsewhere, a school with problems. I can see his followers now, his players, a magnet for the troubled and the weird. Many teachers floundered amongst such variety of characters but Paul held us in the palm of his hand. He did that by earning our respect, and rewarded us with friendship.

He was the best teacher I could have ever hoped for. He changed my life. He met me as a serious, worried child. I worried until my head hurt and I was having brain scans, counseling and pills the size of saucers. Paul thought this wonderful.

Because that’s what Paul did. He grabbed you by your flaws and made you love them. He took what had been holding me back and directed it where it would be put to use. He taught me about empathy, building characters, story telling.

The stuff I’ve made as an adult, the stuff I’m most proud of; Can We Talk, Panic Stations, Good Grief, they’re all drenched in him, his melancholy, his barely suppressed darkness, his wonky warmth. He believed in me, sculpted my passion for making films and made me really really love acting.

Paul Cobley, my teacher, my compass, my friend. Did you know what you meant to us all?

You are the best thing that ever happened to me. I was going to thank you for that today.

Sleep well, dear man.


6 thoughts on “In memory of Paul Cobley”

  1. My God. I am sitting here in shock right now. I had no idea that Paul had passed away… My heart just snapped clean in two. I loved Paul Cobley as a teacher.

    He was one of those people who gave you the push to keep learning, to keep acting, to not stop until you felt you had perfected what you were doing.

    That’s one big hole in our lives today.

  2. I’m devastated to read this! I had no idea he wasn’t well. I think of him a lot, he had a big impact in my life. He was a wonderful man. Sorry for your loss Rachel. Love to his family ???? I’m in shock.

  3. He was my inspiration and saviour too. A beautiful man who taught me about Humanity, compassion and Socialism. May he live on in those whose lives he changed. I only wish I had seen before he passed. Now I speak to him in my heart. So many things left unspoken, cards and letters unsent. I don’t think he realised the impact he had on the world. Perhaps he’s somewhere where he will know. Such a man of humanity and compassion. Of such depths of sorrow and love who worked to help make sense of this crazy world and it’s complex relationships. Above all I think he strove for people to have compassion and recognise the humanity in all. A legend of a man who leaves the World a little darker. Let’s us keep the light he ignited within us continue to shine. With love and soliraity Rachel Kirk

  4. I am so sad to hear of Paul Cobley, and overcome with emotion reading your beautifully written memorial. I loved him too, he was a very special and slightly terrifying man that had such a tremendous impact on me and who I am today. we were very lucky to have such a rare magnificent teacher X

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